Last December, Amazon unveiled its first ever bricks-and-mortar grocery store.

Amazon Go is not just your average supermarket of course, but a cashier-free shop that allows customers to pick up their items and walk out without queuing or paying (sort of).

Shoppers are simply required to scan smartphones as they enter, leaving Amazon’s “just walk out” technology to detect exactly what’s being taken and charge it to their Prime accounts.

It’s one of the first ever examples of a truly seamless customer experience - a trend that’s predicted to be big in the world of ecommerce this year.

So, what can we learn from the concept? 

Here’s a few factors for marketers to consider.

Getting out of the customer’s way

According to Amazon, the store uses a combination of “computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion” to create a seamless experience for customers.

The concept of walking into a store and out again without any interaction with employees or payments might sound alien – but it’s designed to make shopping as hassle-free as possible.

It’s also the antithesis of many retail marketing strategies.

Instead of interrupting customers as they use technology, or asking them to interact with the brand online (“like our Facebook page”), Amazon wants the technology to stay hidden (though you do need to have downloaded Amazon's app beforehand).

From the success of companies like Uber and Airbnb, it is obvious that customers crave this kind of hands-off approach. Likewise, they also favour utility and practicality over anything else. 

With brands that offer a value proposition based on ease and simplicity dominating their fields, Amazon Go aims to provide customers exactly that – without shouting about it.

Avoiding over-personalisation

By keeping track of the customer’s every move, Amazon Go will enable the brand to deliver more data-driven marketing than ever before.

As customers, we’re used to waiving the right to privacy online, with the knowledge that brands draw on our browsing and buying behaviour in order to deliver targeted messages.

In fact, this is now an expectation, with consumers desiring greater personalisation for an improved service. Think Spotify's curated playlists or Netflix's movie recommendations. 

For the first time ever, however, Amazon Go means consumers will waive their right to privacy while shopping in person. From what we put back on the shelf to the route we take while walking around the store – this information is all up for grabs.

From a marketing perspective, this also means there is the temptation to over-egg personalisation to the point of being creepy. As a result, issues over consumer privacy could potentially be its downfall.

Of course, retail stores have been attempting to track customers for a while, but past examples show that it’s not always accepted. US retailer Nordstrom was previously forced to stop using WiFi to monitor movement in physical stores due to uproar from customers. 

A few years down the line, will it be any different?

Retailers do appear to be recognising that success lies in an intelligent and relevant use of data – not just blind targeting or technology for the sake of it.

For Amazon Go, clever targeting executed in a non-intrusive way is the aim, but the question remains whether or not customers are ready and willing to accept it.

Altering brand perceptions

The Amazon Go experience does not simply end in-store. Data could be used to serve customers even more targeted offers and personalised recommendations on-site.

This connection between the online and offline world is evidently another reason behind the ecommerce brand’s foray into retail. 

After all, a physical experience is often a much better way to create a human connection with customers - especially for a brand like Amazon, which doesn’t exactly offer the most emotionally engaging experience online.

With a bricks-and-mortar store, it has the opportunity to break down customer expectations – namely that Amazon offers a single type of service – and reveal a completely new way of interacting with the brand.

In conclusion…

Amazon’s cashier-free store is by no means a guaranteed success.

Currently available for Amazon employees and due to open to the public in the near future – it is an experiment that could easily be shelved. 

However, it’s certainly an exciting development for the future of retail, and gives marketers an insight into how a seamless experience could lead to greater engagement and satisfaction from consumers.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 9 January, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

The single Amazon Go store is located at 2131 7th Ave, Seattle, WA, on the corner of 7th Avenue and Blanchard Street. Here it is on the map.
https://goo.gl/maps/PoMLiyabccs

over 1 year ago

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Maria Shostak, Global Digital Manager at British American TobaccoEnterprise

Amazon's desire to enter the brick-and-mortar world is very understandable, they have a strong brand and can make an interesting competition to your regular Grocery/Convenience retailers.
I am very curious to see consumers' adoption of the man-free - the privacy should not be an issue, in my mind. When i shop at the likes of Waitrose and Sainsbury's in the UK, and choose a self-out check-out, and use a loyalty card - I have already wavered off my shopping privacy. Amazon takes it a one step further by eliminating a check-out scanning / payment step, and it will be interesting to see how the shoppers will embrace it!

over 1 year ago

Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns, IT Consultant - Global Customer Support Programs at Eli Lilly

This is an interesting step for Amazon, It appears to only be for Amazon employees only at the moment. I couldn't imagine one opening up to the public without good security though :)

over 1 year ago

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